Hockey rivals in search of winning start to 2015

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We’re approaching what the players call the ‘business end’ of the season.

The time when everything is cranked up a gear, and every match is a stepping stone to the play-offs, the title and silverware.

The teams which prevail are the ones which time their run to perfection.

Hit that hot streak too early and the raised expectations can be cruelly dashed as the tank empties just when the prizes are within sight.

Leave it too late, and the time to play catch-up evaporates like steam.

Rewind exactly 12 months and Fife Flyers timing was precision.

They came off the ropes and produced some exhilarating hockey to go all the way to the play-off finals - Ned Lukacevic’s #ontothenextone hashtag summing up a dressing-room that clicked into place.

The aim this season was to start they way they finished and make a serious bid for silverware.

It hasn’t worked out like that, but the season is just about to come alive.

Flyers go into the vital January schedule on the back of three huge wins and gaining in momentum - the key driver behind any play-off push - and confidence.

Maybe they are the epitome of a streaky team, but if they do replicate the thrilling charge to the play-offs then we are in for one heck of a ride.

A 2-0 Hogmanay win in Edinburgh was the perfect sign off to a 2014 that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Friday’s Ne’er clash - or as close to it - with Braehead Clan must be the launch pad into 2015. There can be no false start.

The sides have forged a great rivalry, at times noisy, occasionally niggly, sometimes disrespectful, but always enthralling.

It’s a game that really doesn’t need the hype which too often accompanies it. It stands on its merits.

Sure it’s clash of styles and ethos, and the east-west showdown adds its own layer of spice, but in terms of hockey this is a near perfect match-up.

Clan start 2015 with a triple header, which begins in Fife and takes in games against Edinburgh and Dundee.

The travelling may be minimal, but it’s a big, extended weekend of hockey which means they need to pace themselves. It also means a need for discipline - they can’t afford to have guys kicked out after kicking off.

That same caveat applies to Flyers, but, they can treat this as a one-off game - they don’t play again until Sunday’s road trip to Cardiff.

With that extended recovery time they can play with pace and intensity - the sort of hockey that has rocked Clan on to the backfoot in Fife more than once.

If they do, the crowd then plays its part in creating an atmosphere that can test the mental focus of even a team shooting for the title.

That same backdrop is also perfect for the big-game players to really step into the spotlight.

It’s hard to think of a better game to start a new year of ice hockey.

> Fife Flyers v Braehead Clan

> Friday, January 2 - Fife Ice Arena

> Face off 6.30 p.m.

> Tickets on line www.fifeflyers.co.uk & at rink box office on Friday